News ID: 126598
Published: 0741 GMT September 09, 2015

Al-e Ahmad: 'A Straw in Mecca' and harsh critic of 'Occidentosis'

Al-e Ahmad: 'A Straw in Mecca' and harsh critic of 'Occidentosis'

September 9 marks the national day commemorating the prominent Iranian writer, thinker and political critic Jalal Al-e Ahmad who is mostly cited for his critical essay 'Gharbzadegi' (Occidentosis), translated into English as 'Weststruckness' and 'Westoxification' — a cultural critique of Westernization in Iran which he called a 'plague'.

In his works, which have eternalized his legacy in Persian history and literature, Al-e Ahmad's "stinging critique of Western technology and civilization" and his argument that the decline of traditional Iranian industries such as carpet-weaving were the beginning of Western "economic and existential victories over the East" was widely embraced by Ayatollah Khomeini and later became part of the ideology of the 1979 Islamic Revolution emphasizing nationalization of industry, independence in all areas of life from both the Soviet and the Western world, and economic 'self-sufficiency', Mehr News Agency wrote.

'A Straw in Mecca', literally translated as 'A Straw in Miqat' referring to the stations at which pilgrims on the Hajj put on the pilgrim's garment and perform Hajj rituals, is one of the most notable contemporary Hajj travelogues.

The book which could be regarded as a new chapter in the life of its author, gives a detailed account of pilgrimage and the pilgrims from various countries and all walks of life, each with their own unique customs, clothes and personality and cultural traits.

Jalal Al-e Ahmad was born on December 2, 1923 into a family of strong religious traditions originally from the village of Aurazan in Taleqan district bordering Mazandaran in northern Iran. Today, he is known as the writer of some 19 novels, short story collections and articles, six travelogues and many translations of various French writers such as Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre and Andre Gide.

Al-e Ahmad then discovered the disease of 'Gharbzadagi', 'Occidentosis' which gave him the title and idea for his best-known and most influential book.

Hamid Algar, the translator of Al-e Ahmad's short story collection 'Occidentosis: A Plague from the West' writes in the introduction of the book that "after the publication of 'Gharbzadagi', almost all that he wrote was dominated by an awareness of the historical and contemporary opposition of the West and the Islamic world, by a concern for the rescue of an Iranian cultural authenticity and autonomy at the heart of which lay Shia Islam, and by a critical stance toward those of his fellow intellectuals who were carriers of the disease of occidentosis".

In 1950, he married Simin Daneshvar, a well-known Persian novelist best known for her novel 'Suvashun' ('Mourners of Siavash', also known as A Persian Requiem,1969), which is considered the first novel by an Iranian woman which went on to become a bestseller.

Jalal Al-e Ahmad died on September 9, 1969, in a village in Gilan province, weakened by years of constant strain.

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